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Japan, India talk logistics and base-sharing deal amid China tensions

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Modi Abe India Japan
Indian
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, with Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, September 1, 2014

POOL New/REUTERS

  • India and Japan are expected to continue discussing a
    logistics deal during a summit later this month.
  • The deal would allow both of their militaries to access
    bases and logistical support from the other.
  • Both India and Japan have sought to counter China’s
    growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

A meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month may yield
more progress on a deal that would allow their armed forces to
share military facilities.

The proposed agreement, likely to be discussed during the 13th
India-Japan summit in Tokyo on October 28 and October 29, would
increase their security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region by
allowing the reciprocal exchange of supplies and logistical
support, according to the Deccan Herald.

The proposed deal was first discussed when Japan’s defense
minister, Itsunori Onodera, met with India’s defense minister,
Nirmala Sitharaman, in New Delhi in August. It came up again this
month during a meeting in Delhi between Modi and Abe’s
national-security advisers.


Malabar Indian Ocean India Japan aircraft carrier
Ships
from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF),
and the US Navy sail in the Bay of Bengal as part of Exercise
Malabar, July 17, 2017.

(US Navy photo
by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole
Schroeder)


Sources with knowledge of preparations for the summit told the Herald that the deal
would allow Japan and India to exchange logistical support,
including supplies of food, water, billets, petroleum and oil,
communications, medical and training services, maintenance and
repair services, spare parts, as well as transportation and
storage space.

It’s not clear if any agreement would be signed this month,
though there are signs India and Japan want to conclude it in the
near term, given plans to increase joint military exercises next
year and in 2020, according to The Diplomat.

The deal would not commit either country to
military action, but it would allow their militaries — both
among the most powerful in the
world — to access ports and bases run by the other.

For India, that means it would be able to use Japan’s base in
Djibouti, which is strategically located at the Horn of Africa
between the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean, overlooking one of
the world’s busiest shipping corridors.

In addition to Japanese troops, Djibouti also hosts a major US
special-operations outpost at Camp Lemonnier, just a few miles
from China’s first overseas
military outpost
, which opened in 2017 and which US officials
have said raises “very significant operational security
concerns.”


Djibouti Camp Lemonnier East Africa US military base
Camp
Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically
located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian
Peninsula.

Google
Maps


In turn, Japan would be able to access Indian bases in the
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which sit on important sea lanes
west of the Malacca Strait, a major maritime thoroughfare between
the Indian and Pacific oceans. (The majority of China’s energy
supplies
currently flow through the Indian Ocean and the
Malacca Strait.)

India has started stationing
advanced P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol planes and maritime
surveillance drones at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

At the summit later this month, Japan is also expected to raise India’s
potential purchase of 12 Shinmaywa US-2i search-and-rescue and
maritime surveillance planes, which would also be stationed at
the islands.

Delhi reached a similar logistical-support deal with France — which has
territories in the southern Indian Ocean and a base in Djibouti —
earlier this year and with the US in 2016. (India
and the US reached another deal on
communications and technical exchanges in September.)


Bay of Bengal Indian Ocean MalabarChristopher Woody/Google Maps

Further discussion of an India-Japan logistical-support deal
comes as those two countries and others seek to ensure freedom of
movement in the Indian Ocean and to counter what is seen as
growing Chinese influence there.

Japan, which, like India, has territorial disputes with
China
, has sought to expand its military’s capabilities and
reach.

Earlier this month, Japan’s largest warship, the Kaga helicopter
carrier, sailed into the port at Colombo, in Sri Lanka — a visit
meant to reassure Sri Lanka that Japan would deploy military
assets
to a part of the world where Chinese influence is
growing.

A few days after the Kaga left Colombo, Sri Lanka navy ships were
scheduled to conduct exercises
with both the Indian and Japanese navies.

Japan has also expanded its security partnerships with countries
around the Indian Ocean and pledged billions of dollars
for development projects in the region.


Japan navy JMSDF submarine sub Oryu Soryu
The
JSMDF submarine Oryu at its launch on October 4,
2018.


JMSDF/Twitter


Beijing’s activity around the Indian Ocean region is particularly
concerning for Delhi.

China’s base in Djibouti, its role in the Pakistani port of
Gwadar, its 99-year lease of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka,
and other infrastructure deals with countries in the region have
set Delhi on guard, Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia expert at the
geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor, told Business Insider
earlier this month.

“India’s view is that South
Asia’s our neighborhood, and if another rival military power is
expanding its presence — whether in Bhutan, whether in the
Maldives, whether in Sri Lanka, whether in Nepal — that is a
challenge, and that is something that we need to address,”
Pervaiz said.

India’s focus is likely to remain
on its land borders with rivals
China and Pakistan, Pervaiz said, but Delhi has made moves to bolster its position
in the Indian Ocean region — a change in focus that has been
called “a tectonic shift.”


India navy Kalvari submarine
India’s
first-in-class Kalvari submarine during floating at Naval
Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.


Indian
navy



India is working to develop a port at Chabahar
on Iran’s southern coast, which would provide access to Central
Asia and circumvent existing overland routes through Pakistan to
Afghanistan.

India is particularly concerned
about Chinese submarine activity in the Indian Ocean and has held
anti-submarine-warfare discussions with the US and is
seeking to add more subs to its own
force
.

“For India, the concern now is
that although it maintained this kind of regional hegemony by
default, that status is beginning to erode, and that extends to
the Indian Ocean,” Pervaiz said. “India wants to maintain [its
status as] the dominant maritime power in the Indian Ocean, but
… as China’s expanding its own presence in the Indian Ocean,
this is again becoming another challenge.”

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